MATE Desktop on Debian Wheezy

I’m a member of the MATE Desktop team and until recently the majority of my involvement has been focused around Arch Linux.

However, I’m working on a MATE project that is based on a Debian derivative. MATE has recently been accepted into the Debian Backports repository for Wheezy, so I decided to do a “MATE from scratch” on Debian using an old netbook to get familiar with the MATE package naming differences between Arch Linux and Debian.

Install Debian

I installed Debian Wheezy from the netinst ISO to ensure the target install was as minimal as possible. I went with the defaults until the ‘Software selection’ dialogue, at this point unselect everything except “SSH server”. Like this:

[ ] Debian desktop environment
[ ] Web server
[ ] Print server
[ ] SQL database
[ ] DNS Server
[ ] File server
[ ] Mail server
[X] SSH server
[ ] Laptop
[ ] Standard system utilities

Debian ISO with Firmware

If you’re installing on hardware that requires additional firmware in order for it to work with Linux then use the netinst ISO that includes firmware.

Configure Debian

When the install is finished, reboot and configure Debian a little.


You’ll need to install lsb-release for the following to work.

apt-get install lsb-release

This is what I put in /etc/apt/sources.list.

cat >/etc/apt/sources.list<<EOF
deb $(lsb_release -cs) main contrib non-free
deb-src $(lsb_release -cs) main contrib non-free

deb $(lsb_release -cs)/updates main contrib non-free
deb-src $(lsb_release -cs)/updates main contrib non-free

# $(lsb_release -cs)-updates, previously known as 'volatile'
deb $(lsb_release -cs)-updates main contrib non-free
deb-src $(lsb_release -cs)-updates main contrib non-free


MATE is only available in the wheezy-backports repository.

cat >/etc/apt/sources.list.d/backports.list <<EOF
deb $(lsb_release -cs)-backports main contrib non-free
deb-src $(lsb_release -cs)-backports main contrib non-free


sudo apt-get update

All backports are deactivated by default (i.e. the packages are pinned to 100 by using ButAutomaticUpgrades: yes in the Release files. If you want to install something from backports run:

apt-get -t wheezy-backports install "package"

Install MATE Desktop

First install the LightDM display manager.

apt-get install accountsservice lightdm lightdm-gtk-greeter

Now for the MATE Desktop itself.

apt-get -t wheezy-backports install mate-desktop-environment-extras


I typically use NetworkManager, so lets install that too.

apt-get install network-manager-gnome


Depending on your hardware you may require CPU frequency utilities or additional firmware.

apt-get install cpufreqd cpufrequtil firmware-linux firmware-linux-nonfree

And, that’s it! Reboot and you’ll see the LightDM greeter waiting for your login credentials.



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